One of the highlights of the American Spectrum section of the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, Twin Falls Idaho is perhaps one of the most original ideas to come out of the festival in some time. This story of a hooker who falls in love with Siamese twins is an emotional, dramatic tearjerker. It’s an expertly made first feature from Michæl and Mark Polish, real life identical twin brothers who also star in the film as the conjoined twins.
The story centers on Blake and Francis Falls, who came to the big city to look up their estranged mother, a woman that still lives with the horror and guilt of giving up her deformed children. Enter Penny, a prostitute perfectly played by Michele Hicks who does an excellent job at portraying both the shock and attraction after seeing the Siamese twins when she shows up at their hotel room (she is the birthday present the twins gave each other). As her compassion and understanding of them grows, she invites them out to a swank underground Halloween party, where they blend in seamlessly for the first time in their lives. From there she starts falling for Blake, the stronger one of the two. She also learns that Francis is dying, and Blake is put in the uncomfortable position of choosing between dying with his brother or risking separation to be with Penny, the woman he has come to love.
If this sounds fascinating, it’s nothing compared to the cinematography, production design and make-up, which all look way beyond the budget of this low-budget film. It’s all top notch. As Penny explores Blake’s conjoined body, rubbing his stomach and painting his toe nails, you can’t help but feel, like Penny, how strangely sensual these humans are. It’s hard to look at, yet harder to look away.
The best thing about this film is the acting. You buy these twins from the second you see them, and your heart goes out to them. They’re drawn richer than any other handicapped characters in recent Hollywood movies, (including Shine, Rainman, and Forrest Gump). Newcomer Michelle Hicks will also be the next big star to be discovered in a Sundance movie, as she is handles all the emotional turns with charm and wit. Twin Falls Idaho was picked up for distribution by Sony Classics and will be one of the big hits of the 1999 indie film world.